May 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Compilation: Albert Ketèlbey Vol. 2
Original historic recordings (1917-1939)  
  NAXOS 8.110848   [61:42]

Albert Ketelbey

The Sacred Hour Rêverie; Bells Across the Meadows; In a Fairy Realm Suite; Algerian Scene; Fairy Butterfly; King Cupid; In the Mystic Land of Egypt; Wedgewood Blue; Sanctuary of the Heart; In a Persian Market; A dream of Christmas; In a Monastery Garden.

When I reviewed Naxos's first volume of original Ketèlbey recordings last year I observed, "Here is some of the first original film music, written for accompanying action on the silent screen. It is unashamedly unrestrained and sentimental and melodramatic. Albert Ketèlbey acknowledged a growing need for mood music to accompany the flickering images and he responded by writing accessible atmospheric and dramatic music that was within the grasp of the average cinema pianists yet thrilled our grandparents." Here is another sampling of the sort of OTT music that would have been heard in theatres before the advent of the talkies, pieces like: In a Persian Market, In the Mystic Land of Egypt and In a Monastery Garden.

This second collection of historic recordings has all the excesses we associate with the period: the purple OTT bravura and portmanteau indulgences, the sentimental slurs - take the sweet, quasi-religious Sanctuary of the Heart, for instance, sung here by Nellie Wallace wringing out all its emotional intensity. Yet, there is an impressive role call of famous artists of the day in this collection. The great Australian bass/baritone, Peter Dawson sings The Sacred Hour, another méditation religieuse; Denis Noble sings In the Mystic Land of Egypt, and the popular violinist Albert Sandler with Ketèlbey himself plays another colourful evocation, Algerian Scene. Bass Robert Easton, is featured in Ketèlbey's little-known fantasy on popular Christmas music, A Dream of Christmas. The composer's concert orchestra conducted by Ketèlbey play the sentimental Bells Across the Meadows and another more obscure composition, the coy In a Fairy Realm written in three treacly movements 'The Moonlit Glade', a fluttery, twee waltz, 'The Queen-Fairy Dances' and 'The Gnomes' March'. Two more fluffy items are sung by twittering soprano Florence Smithson in old-world affectedness accompanied by Ketèlbey and his orchestra: Fairy Butterfly and the precious King Cupid. Ketèlbey moves to the piano as well as directing the orchestra playing his charming Wedgwood Blue

Another portion of nostalgic period charm for those with a very sweet tooth. Not quite as appetising as Volume 1 but still perfectly attuned to the world of the silents.

Ian Lace

[not rated]

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